Show By Rock!! is one of a number of Funimation titles that have seen a UK release as of late but is this mobile rhythm game adaptation by Studio Bones worth the entry price? Unfortunately, no, at least not in this seasoned anime fan’s eyes, but before we write the series off too early let’s take a look at why.
“Set in the glamorous metropolis Tokyo Midi City, where music and the dream of musical superstardom is everything. Here, “battle of the bands” is more than just a teen rivalry: Dozens of ensembles compete for the honor of playing atop the city’s highest tower. When a Gothic Lolita-clad catgirl cutie named Cyan stumbles into the music world, she too is swept up by the dream of fame. After joining forces with three other colorful characters bunnygirl honor student Chuchu, shy doggirl Retoree, and adorable sheepgirl Moa the quartet becomes Plasmagica, the freshest band on the scene. Armed with special instruments, the girls face off with other bands striving for stardom, like the cool and passionate Visual Kei band Shingan Crimsonz, or the handsome pop idols Trichronika. Will the band find celebrity? Or are they doomed to be one-hit-wonders…” – Funimation
I must admit that while I had no interest in watching this series prior to this review, the synopsis doesn’t sound half bad and with Studio Bones involved I became somewhat optimistic. The opening episode certainly delivered on that initial promise for the most part as I was intrigued by the madness that was unfolding before my eyes. The rest of the series, however, never managed to play on that intrigue past the first episode and while the madness may have stuck around nothing much else did.
One thing that was painfully clear to me throughout my time with the series is that any kind of meaningful plot progression was not part of the plan. Unlike series such as Love Live! School Idol Project and K-On!, Show By Rock!!, seemed very content with keeping the status quo. While I may not have expected much from the series going in I’m surprised by how boring this series quickly became. Not to be unkind to the type of series you’d be likely to find on a children’s channel but I feel this series would feel right at home there.
The visuals are probably the only area of the series that I can actually praise. Studio Bones have put their best foot forward with this adaptation and produced some really great animation. I’m not a fan of some of the different bands’ character designs as they look a little fan-art like but I assume those are what they had to work with from the game’s assets. Our main characters of Plasmagica, on the other hand, do look well-designed and are easy on the eyes for the most part. I must admit though there are a couple of odd decisions at play when it comes to the visual elements of this series I don’t know how much of that is due to the game it’s adapted from.
The biggest oddity of the series is its use of 3D CGI segments. Now thankfully these are presented in a self-contained manner and work quite well. I’d even go as far as to say that the CGI actually looks really good when it’s free to flourish in its own environment and not shoe-horned into the 2D animation. That said when in 3D CGI world, the characters become these weird little chibi animal avatars that I don’t quite see the point of; a theme that seems to occur a lot throughout this series.
Being a series about music you’d expect some decent songs and while at least none are bad I didn’t feel that anywhere particularly that good either. Interestingly the English dub track actually features dubbed songs and again while I can commend the effort they still didn’t hit the mark with me personally. There are strong efforts on both the English and Japanese audio tracks so whichever you decide to go with the experience will be as good as it can be.
Extra on-disc include Funimation standard Episode Commentaries, Band Promo Videos, Commercials, Promo Videos, Textless Opening & Closing Songs. As a music-based series, there are a fair few textless songs to enjoy at your leisure, of course, assuming they do it for you.
Ultimately, or unfortunately, Show By Rock!! never really manages to offer anything of value throughout its initial twelve-episode outing. The premise, while a little out there, does offer a lot more promise than what we ultimately ended up with. Neither music nor comedy elements of the series really hit the mark with me leaving just a dull and empty experience that lacked any kind of impact. Show By Rock!! is not a bad series as its stands up well from a technical standpoint it just lacks a clear focus.